April 2017 Writer’s Life: My new blog & new gig at Romper [#yearofwriting]

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Well, here we are! It’s April in my #yearofwriting adventures and I have not one but TWO big announcements, so let me start with those…

1. I started a new blog, The Cookie Dough Life!

The first week of April was not good for me. I hadn’t slept very well and I was increasingly frustrated about, to tell you the truth, I can’t even remember what. But out of my frustration was born a new blog that I have called The Cookie Dough Life.

While you’re totally welcome to read the full story of why I started the blog (and I hope you do!), here’s the main thing you need to know: Being cookie dough is the realization that I’m not done baking yet… Meaning that I haven’t figured it all out, and maybe that’s okay. Living The Cookie Dough Life is about embracing the fact that life is constantly changing and evolving, and so am I.

And, of course, I am going to take you on that journey. Really, it’s going to replace me writing random stuff on this site, which I am keeping as more of a portfolio site going forward. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here is my favorite post so far: A year ago, I was single, unemployed, homeless, broke, fat and drunk.

2. I’m a Lifestyle Writer at Romper as of May 1st! 

In even MORE exciting news, I am happy to (finally) announce that I am joining Romper as a PT Lifestyle Writer starting Monday, May 1st! WOO HOO!

I will be covering various topics but, for those that don’t know Romper: They are a parenting site for millennial moms and are the sister site of Bustle (which is for millennial women in general). I’ve been a huge fan and follower of both since their launch, and am absolutely thrilled to be joining the team.

I realize that’s not really an April writing thing, but I did apply, interview for and get the job in the month of April, so I think it should count. Oh, and in case you’re wondering: No, I’m not a mom (yet, in fact, I write about that here) but I know I will be someday and I have plenty of experience writing about mom topics previously. So, needless to say, I am just OH SO EXCITED!

And now on to the rest of the month…

What was published: 

Breaking into three new publications has been pretty fun this month, especially because they were all posts that were very personal to me: The first about being bisexual (even though I plan to marry a man), the second about my fertility fears (a subject near and dear to my heart) and the third about how to party sober (since I’m in recovery).

All of those stories were written last month, with the fertility fears story actually being written in January. Can you believe how long I had to wait for it to publish?! But this happens, and it was still thrilling to see the story live… FINALLY!

How much I wrote: 23,487 words

How much I made: $1750

This has been my most successful writing month BY FAR, I have to say. I basically wrote double of what I had in February and March, and made as much money as I did in January (except that two stories back then were on spec, which didn’t get picked up).

Part of the reason that I wrote so much was also because I am counting my words for The Cookie Dough Life. Maybe that’s a little bit unfair because I’m not getting paid for that so, at first glance, it seems as if I am getting paid less to write more… but that’s not the case, because this writing is personal and just for me.

Pitches sent out in April: 5
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 3
Pitch acceptances: 2 (sort of)
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 6
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 5
Pitch acceptances: 0

Of course, the story gets a little bit more complicated when you look at the pitches I sent out this past month. Basically, let’s face it: they suck. I barely pitched, and most of it wasn’t until the very end of the month (last week, in fact) and that’s that.

I don’t love the way that looks, to be honest, but part of the reason is because I’ve been busy this month, my organization has recently gone to shit and I was actually doing a lot more writing than usual (as you saw above) which obviously meant a lot less time for pitching.

I don’t love this, but I will say that I wrote four brand-new-to-me freelance pieces in January, two in February, two in March and six in April. I’m pretty proud of those numbers and I guess I just have to live with the fact that in a month where you freelance more than before, are in the middle of a job application (as I was for a while) AND also start a new blog, you just won’t be able to fit everything in. And that’s okay.

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Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still important 20 years later

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The proudest moment of my career (so far) happened earlier last month when VICE published my piece titled “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out.”

Not only did the piece go up the morning of the 20th anniversary of the television premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was also featured at the very top of their website for the entire day. Seriously, that’s a HUGE honor for any writer but especially awesome since it was my first piece for them.

The thing that was even more touching to me, however, is that I was able to honor of one of my all-time favorite TV shows in this very special way.

The truth is that BTVS (as we fans frequently call it) has held a special place in my heart for a very long time. Not only did the show legitimately help me come out, but it generally left an impact on me that has lasted through the rest of my life.

When I first heard of BTVS, I wasn’t impressed. I never really watched it when it first started but got into it at age 16 when a couple of my high school friends became pretty obsessed. Soon enough, I was driving around in my car with friends as we all sang along to the musical episode’s soundtrack at the top of our lungs.

I remember endlessly debating the Team Angel vs. Team Spike situation (#TeamAngelForever), and grieving when the show ended just a year before I graduated high school – which was just a year after I discovered it. In a way, it felt as if BTVS entered and left my life far too soon.

What I didn’t know at the time, however, was how much impact Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel and the rest of the gang would have on my life.

It’s no understatement that BTVS helped to solidify some friendships for me at school (and in the years that followed), but the biggest impact that the show had (besides helping me come out, of course) is what many girls and women saw in Joss Whedon’s work – a kick-ass heroine who could be funny, pretty, awkward, loud and all-around awesome.

Although I always related more to Willow (hello, I even have red hair now!) than Buffy, I could still love and appreciate Buffy for everything that she was. She was a great leader and phenomenal title character. The show was funny and quirky and spoke to my adolescent and teen self in a way that I found freeing.

I don’t know how Joss managed to do it, but I felt more and more like myself the more I watched Buffy stumble through life with a wealth of responsibilities. She didn’t always succeed in picking out the right outfit, but she always saved the world.

When I read the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz on the cover, I was thrilled to travel back into the Buffyverse to read how the cast (all except Giles!) reflect on the show 20 years later and what it has meant to them. Joss even calls Buffy and Angel the greatest love story ever told, so take THAT, #TeamSpike!

A lot has happened in the world since the show first premiered on March 10, 1997. But while it may not be the happiest place right now, it’s important to recognize all of the positive changes that have happened too. For me, the biggest (and happiest) is the nationwide legalization of gay marriage.

I remember doing a big report on gay marriage and civil unions during my senior year of high school, in Fall of 2003 just after the show ended, when very few states even wanted to talk about that kind of thing. And now it’s nationwide law! That’s amazing, truly.

For the past year, I’ve actually been re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my boyfriend Adam. It took us almost 11 months to get through the show, but it was sooooo worth it to share something I truly love with the person I love most in the world. Being a big Joss Whedon fan already, he loved it of course.

But more than that, watching the show with him this past year served as a great reminder for me about why I loved it in the first place. Of course, like most devoted fans, I’ve gone through the entire series 4 or 5 times already. Watching it all once more was a joy and, as the 20th anniversary came and went, I’m glad to have spent time with the Scooby Gang once more.

After all, if it wasn’t for them, I might have never come into my own as a proud bisexual woman as early as I did. And that’s something I will forever be grateful for.

To read my piece “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out” on VICE, click here!

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Here’s what happens when a writer has too many ideas

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So if you’ve spent any amount of time around me in real life, then you probably know one thing about me: I get easily excited.

I don’t know if I would consider myself a super impulsive person, but I’m not not an impulsive person. I think my life partner Adam would probably disagree with that statement, actually, as he’s mentioned my impulsivity a few times here and there (and by “few” I mean… maybe many).

What I consider myself, actually, is an ideas person.

I get ideas all the damn time, about any variety of subjects. My chosen career of writer and editor is actually pretty perfect for someone who has too many ideas too much of the time, but it can also be harmful. The problem with having too many ideas is that I can easily jump from one to the other, and still see the value in all of them.

Here’s a perfect example: About a year after I graduated college, I decided that I wanted to write a book.

No, let me rephrase that… For as long as I could remember, I’ve been one of those writers who felt like having a book published, as in something I can hold in my hands with my name on the cover and available in every Barnes & Noble, was the ultimate accomplishment. So I always knew that I would write a book someday, and sometime in 2008 I decided to try my hand at it.

Maybe it’s because I have always done well in school or because my best form of learning is in the classroom (as in, though lectures), but I signed myself up for a chick lit writing class. Chick lit, as in contemporary women’s fiction, was my primary reading at the time so this seemed fitting. I had a story in mind, and I worked on it during the class.

The only problem? Well… in a writing exercise that asked us to switch our voice either to very young or very old, I discovered that I absolutely LOVED writing young adult fiction. Shortly after, I took a YA writing class instead. In fact, I took three of them in a row in the year of 2009.

And here’s where the real problem of my life comes in: TOO. MANY. IDEAS.

When I sat down to focus on the chick-lit-turned-YA-novel story, I got another great YA idea that I became utterly obsessed with. I loooooved this new idea, and ultimately drove myself crazy going back and forth between the two. Eventually, life got busy due to a new job and a new blog (several blogs ago now) and I dropped the book.

A few years went by and I decided to write a memoir. The problem? Yup, you guessed it: Too many ideas! Because at the time I was blogging about my weight loss journey, I wanted to write a memoir about growing up overweight, going through a gastric bypass and what has happened since. But then I also had this other idea about writing a memoir about my upbringing, because I am half-Russian and half-Cuban and people’s reactions to hearing that is always “OH! How did THAT happen?!”, and make that into the next great American immigrant story.

Well… I haven’t gotten any further on either of those ideas than I did with my two big YA novel ideas.

Part of the reason for that is because life is busy and I haven’t made the time to focus on any personal writing outside of occasional blogging (that first weight loss blog led to a food blog and led to my portfolio site, which I wanted to write more on last year… and kinda sorta maybe did but didn’t). And now I’m here.

But where is here, anyway?

In a few weeks, it will be the one year anniversary of me moving out of New York City and moving back to Southwest Florida, where I grew up (more on this soon!). One of my goals when moving down here was to a) take my freelance writing career further and b) finally start working on that book again.

The only problem is I wasn’t totally sure which book. Eventually, I decided to work on Moscow Chica, my memoir and now similarly-named Medium publication and the theme of my newsletter.

But you know what happened in my mind when I finally decided to focus on this? MORE DAMN IDEAS!

I went back-and-forth for a while on whether Moscow Chica is the memoir I should focus on, or if I should still do the weight loss one first. I occasionally entertained the idea of going back to one of my YA novels and, finally after the election, I felt that the immigration story is the important one to tell at this point in history.

And I was totally happy with my choice for a while… a short while.

Then came more ideas. Last year, I tried to blog on my portfolio siteabout a project I called Map Your 30s, which was essentially a bit of what I am doing here but more focused on my age… in that I had just turned 30 and wanted to talk about all of the changes that are still happening in my life… because nothing should be “settled” by a certain age. That was a fun idea but I didn’t actually sustain it for very long, unfortunately. Again, I blame the life changes and a little bit my excitement to start (but not finish) things (more on that later too, I’m sure).

Here is where everything comes full circle.

This year, I decided that this was my #YearOfWriting and I was going to focus it on ALL THE THINGS. I planned to freelance more than ever, put a book proposal together for my memoir and so much more.

One of my biggest goals, actually, was to write for 17 different publications and I’m almost there. So far this year, I have been published on 10 (online) publications and have 5 more in the works. I’ve even got tentative pieces with two others… which would soon enough get me to my goal. So YAY for that.

This whole “too many ideas” thing is definitely good when it comes to my freelance writing career, and I think it’s one of the things that has made me a good (and successful) journalist. But the problem comes in whenever I try to do pretty much any kind of writing in my personal life.

You’ve already heard about the two YA novels and the two memoirs, but there’s more. Honestly, so much more. A few weeks ago, I wrote the beginning pages of another YA novel that a few friends saw and loved. And I also started this new blog…

That’s right, after ALL of my failed attempts at keeping up a blog (Healthy Latin Food being the most memorable), I somehow decided that it was a good idea to try one more more time and last week launched this here The Cookie Dough Life.

I’m really excited by the prospect of this blog, actually. It’s basically for me to have a fun place to talk about whatever I want… from relationships to career stuff to health and life and basically anything else I want to talk (or write) about. And that’s how we got here.

Last week, when it first launched, I explained exactly what the whole “cookie dough” life thing means. And since then I’ve stayed silent. Partially, it is because I have been afraid and unsure of what I wanted to say next. The big “Hooray I Have A New Project!” excitement wore off a little, and I am now faced with an empty blog and no content and, of course, a million ideas.

Sometimes when I have a million ideas, I jump right in. And other times, I freeze. That’s what has been happening to me for the past week, so I thought… What better way to really start this blog than by admitting to all of that mess in my head?

Since career is something that I actively plan to talk about on CDL, here it is: I’m a writer and I have too many ideas.

That’s often very frustrating, I know. Well, maybe you don’t know… but I sure do. Yet despite all of that, the only way forward is to just keep going forward. To be honest, today I don’t know what that means. I am not sure if I am going to go back to focusing on Moscow Chica or one of the YA novels or something else entirely.

I’m not even sure if this blog is going to be The One I Keep Up With Finally, or whether these are all words going into the void that will be erased from the internet in a year (in so much that anyone can ever truly erase anything from the internet, anyway).

But the one thing I know is that I have too many ideas, and I can’t wait to share them all here.

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March 2017 Writer’s Life: My piece for VICE and Q1 totals [#yearofwriting]

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If you’ve been following my #yearofwriting post here for the months of January and February, then you know that I am determined to do a LOT more writing this year and I’m also determined to track everything.

This month, to be honest, hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as the rest. I had a pretty big spurt of pitching in the very beginning of the month, which was VERY exciting… and then my birthday came. Now, don’t judge, but I am one of those people who LOVES their birthdays and so of course that distracted me during the end of the month. But oh well! Moving on.

What was published: 

My proudest moment BY FAR this month was the publication of How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out on VICE. In fact, one of the coolest things that happened on the day of the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that my piece appeared on the front page of VICE and remained there all day. That’s a HUGE deal, trust me!

Otherwise, I had fun writing a couple of freelance pieces that will be published next month. It’s too bad that I can’t brag about them yet… That’s honestly the most frustrating part of being a freelance writer. Sometimes you’re waiting for weeks and sometimes even MONTHS before your stories are published.

And I’m talking about digital, where things typically move quickly. I can’t even imagine how magazine writers or book authors deal with the wait. Needless to say, I’m not the most patient person and that’s served me very well as a digital-focused freelance writer and editor. But anyway, you probably also want to know how much I got done this month, right?

How much I wrote: 12,982 words

How much I made: $1000

Funnily enough, I wrote almost 1000 words more this month than last month but made a bit less money. Primarily that’s because I wrote a couple more blog posts (which don’t cost any money, but up my total word count) and wrote a high priced story (that was the same word count as I usually do, but the pay was better). January remains my best month, and I’m sure it had a lot to do with being deep in working with my writing coach to push my career forward.

Pitches sent out in March: 28
Pitch rejections: 14
Pitch non-replies: 10
Pitch acceptances: 4
Pitch reply with question: 1

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 6
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 4
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 1

Following up on old pitches is always a bit of a crap-shoot, but I might as well keep going, right? I don’t feel discouraged by my results and it’s nice to see what is happening. In fact, I wanted to total it all up…

Quarter 1 totals: 

How much I wrote: 41,495 words
How much I made: $3550*
Pitches sent out: 66
Pitch acceptances: 10**

*I wrote two pieces on spec in the month of January, and they weren’t ultimately accepted… so that’s $300 I didn’t get, but one of those stories turned into another piece that got published and the other piece I am still hopeful will get published soon as well.

**I’m not counting pitch rejections or non-replies here, because I think the math is pretty simple. Plus, some of those may still materialize… so well shall see! But, you know, I have to say: Having a 15% success rate isn’t too terrible. I’m definitely learning a lot in this process, and I feel confident that things will get better and better as I do more freelancing.

The truth really does seem to be that the more pitches you send out, the more acceptances you will get. And while I haven’t mastered everything that I hope to master in the freelance world, I’m feeling pretty good about my results so far.

Besides, when VICE puts your story on the front page… Well, that’s definitely something to be excited about!

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Thoughts on turning 31… and the
future of Map Your 30s blog

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When I first started writing about turning 30 years old and decided to create the Map Your 30s Blog, my idea was simple: I wanted to write about all of the changes happening in my life and I wanted to make the point that life doesn’t end when you’re 30.

In fact, in my very first post after turning the big 3-0, I said that “my goal with the Map Your 30s blog is to prove that turning this momentous decade doesn’t have to be the end of your journey.” I wanted to write about how it’s okay not to have everything figured out, because I still didn’t and because I knew plenty of people who were stressed because it felt like being 30 meant SO MUCH.

It doesn’t.

Or, at least, it doesn’t have to.

Yesterday, I turned 31 years old and, let me tell you, a LOT of stuff has happened in my life since. If you’ve been following me at all (on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), then you might have noticed quite a few changes… Starting with the biggest one of all: At 30, I was living in New York City, the place I had chosen to call my home since I went to college there at 18 years old, and am now a happy resident of Southwest Florida, where I am actually originally from and never thought I would end up in again.

But there’s more. And since I had very specific categories I wanted to grow in, talk about and generally work towards bettering in my 30s, here it is.

Relationships: When I turned 30 years old, I was single and kind of starting to be miserable about it. I hadn’t had a longterm relationship in six years and, even worse, the relationships I had before were pretty freaking horrible. But in my first Map Your 30s blog post (which was written exactly 3 months after turning 30), I wrote about finally finding the relationship I have always dreamed of. And well, we’re about to near our one year anniversary and are happily planning for 57 more to come.

Career: This is probably the place where I’ve grown the most, besides relationships. At 30, I had just accepted a job that very quickly turned out to be the wrong move for me and spurned me to go back to Florida, with my tail between my legs, to live with my parents and figure out the next step. In my update last June, I had thankfully gone back to being the Food Editor at Brit+Co and started writing again for MamásLatinas. Since then, I also started being a regular contributor to Mom.me and am hoping to find another PT writing gig soon. Beyond that, though, I also am freelancing a ton since the start of 2017 (after hiring a writing coach) and am very optimistic that I will hit my goal of being published in 17 publications this year… and very soon, I expect!

Home: My home situation obviously changed quite dramatically from being 30 to being 31, since I moved states and settled back in Southwest Florida (for now, anyway). I used to believe that New York City was the place where I belonged and the only city that I could live in, but that’s no longer true. It ironically probably took 10 years of living in the city (the official time you can start calling yourself a “New Yorker,” which I very much consider myself to be) before I realized that I could live elsewhere too. Right now I am happy to be in SW FL but I know that my life is going to take me elsewhere, and possibly before turning 32. That’s meant that my physical home, as in the apartment we live in, is a bit in flux. But that’s okay because, as we all know, I don’t have to have it all figured out just yet.

Finances: This area is a tricky one but, I have to say, I think I am finally starting to get to a better place. At 30, I had no savings to speak of at all. And shortly after starting this blog and moving to Florida, I realized that I might have to save for a car and who knows what else. It’s been tricky, too, because Adam and I traveled a bunch towards the end of 2016 and that ran up our credit cards a bit higher than we’d like. However, with my stable editor and contributor jobs, extra income from freelance writing and some hard-ass budgeting, I am very confident we will be able to pay it all off by the time I turn 32 next year.

Health: I have to admit: At 30, I was definitely not the weight I was hoping to be. Although that didn’t stop me from taking the boudoir photos I had always wanted, it didn’t exactly make me feel good to be eating unhealthy food 80% of the time and only focusing on healthy food 20% of the time. As I wrote in my first Map Your 30s blog post, I wanted to switch those numbers and start to really focus on my health. Although I still haven’t figured out a good gym routine, I am happy to report that I now eat vegetarian or vegan about 80% of the time and have lost about 20 pounds since my 30th birthday. And I wasn’t even trying to!

Confidence: Here is where things get a little tricky… You see, “confidence” was my secret keyword for writing about recovery, which was something that I was not yet comfortable sharing with the world this time last year. I had gone into rehab in July 2015, relapsed in April 2016 (yes, a month after turning 30) and finally confessed to my journey last September, the same month that I celebrated my half-birthday. I also wanted to talk about mental health in this space, and I haven’t done much of that. But from being 30 and on the edge of a relapse to being 31 and almost a whole year sober, I am feeling pretty good and (dare I say it?) more confident than ever.

So, all in all, I would say that the 30th year of my birth was a pretty good one. I met the love of my life, started a full-time freelance writing career, moved from NYC to SW FL, set up a good budget to pay off debts, lost weight as a result of healthier eating and finally figured out life as a sober person.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster and, although I haven’t written about it as much as I initially thought, it’s been a good check-in for myself to see how I have been doing on the bigger life goals.

Here’s the thing though: Although in my head, I kind of want to do more of Map Your 30s, in my heart I know that this is totally unrealistic. The truth is that I have other writing goals right now and no time to focus on this. Beyond that, I want to do something different with my personal writing… and I haven’t quite figured out yet. But I’ll definitely let you know once I do.

However, that’s doesn’t mean that Map Your 30s is totally dead. What it means is that it’s on the back burner and possibly something I just check in with once a year or so. I’m not sure yet, to be honest, but what I do know is that I was right all along: Turning 30 doesn’t mean the end of your life and it doesn’t mean that you have to have everything figured out by then.

If I’ve learned anything over and over in the past year, it’s that life changes and evolves in ways that we imagine, ways that we plan for, ways that we expect… and so many more ways that were definitely not the plan, not what we expected, and not what we could have imagined.

Would I have imagined this time last year that I would be a full-time freelance writer and editor, living with an amazing partner, in Southwest Florida of all places? Absolutely not! But this has brought new adventure, excitement, stability, love, career advances and so much more to my life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And I wouldn’t trade turning 30 for anything either. Or 31, for that matter.

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